Friday, December 15, 2006
Carbon-Negative Biofuels: The Holy Grail?
Kos diarist strobusguy reminded me of the recent University of Minnesota study on biofuels that rated a very nice article in the StarTribune recently. To paraphrase strobosguy, the gist is this: * diverse mixtures of perennial native prairie plants outperform corn in terms of net energy per acre (it's estimated that mixed prairie grasses grown on marginal farmland would yield 51 percent more energy per acre than corn cultivated on fertile land) * native prairie mixtures, being adapted to the actual midwestern prairie terrain and climate, require fewer inputs of fertilizer and pesticides (and are also more drought tolerant) * prairie mixtures also perfrom better on marginal soils (i.e., soils that should never be planted in intensive monocrops anyway) * native prairie mixtures and their associated soils also sequester carbon (the prairie grasses absorb about 14 times more greenhouse gas than is released in producing grass-based fuel). That last point is especially important, as we have to stop shooting carbon into the air if we don't want to turn the earth into Venus II. Pie in the sky? Not at all. It's a hell of a lot closer to a workable reality than hydrogen or fusion.
While I have my doubts, especially that this is genuinely carbon-negative, I agree that corn is not a sensible approach to biofuel.
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